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PowerPivot Book Acknowledgements

No mention of Ken Puls – The Person Who Inspired the Book in the First Place
(In Author Circles, I’m Told This is Called a “Mistake.”)

Omissions:  the one thing you can never omit

I’ve been doing this blog since late 2009, back when I was still at Microsoft.  I started doing PowerPivot training in 2010.  And starting that same year, I began getting suggestions/requests to write a book.

I largely ignored those suggestions.  Books are a lot of work (more than I even knew!), I was very busy, I didn’t think of myself as a book author, and really, I didn’t think a book was needed.  I kinda figured “if *I* understand this stuff, everyone else does too.”

That changed on December 15, 2011.  I had sent an email to my fellow Excel MVP’s titled “The Excel Army Manifesto,” in which I outlined my opinion that we are on the verge of a revolution – one that dictates an explosion of the importance of Excel Pros.

Ken Puls replied and said:

“I firmly believe that PowerPivot is the future of Excel.  No question in my mind.  It’s insanely easy to get some killer BI in your hands with very little learning, which is awesome.  But…  What I don’t get is DAX.  The light just isn’t going on for me.  If you want to mobilize the Excel Pro army to really make this take off, DAX needs to become accessible for us.”

This was a light bulb moment for me.  Ken laying it all out there like that made it perfectly clear, because Ken is a monster.  When I was on the Excel team and he visited as an MVP, I don’t have a problem admitting that Ken’s knowledge (and blunt honesty) was intimidating.  He can make Excel do incredibly complex things – things I could not and still cannot do.  And here he was saying he just didn’t get PowerPivot formulas, despite sincere attempts.

I knew in my heart that DAX is actually quite…  simple.  DAX is a LOT simpler than many of the things Ken does in Excel.  I knew that what he was missing was actually something simple yet non-obvious.  If I could just fill in that small little gap, he’d be off and running.

DAX:  It’s the little differences

Vincent Vega explains the nuances of PowerPivot DAX measures to Jules Winfield.

When it comes to DAX, the only difference between me and Ken was opportunity.  You see, as a member of the PowerPivot team who abruptly had to move across the country, I had time to noodle on NOTHING but PowerPivot.  For six glorious months in Northeast Ohio, away from the watchful eyes of my managers in Redmond (but still on the payroll!), I was free to experiment.

If I had still been shackled with, you know, daily responsibilities, or even with finding a new job, I probably would not have made it very far.

BUT…  once I DID get it, I was able to teach it to Excel people, and have them doing amazing things in the first couple of hours.  It wasn’t like I was teaching the world’s most recognized Excel MVP’s like Ken either.  If you’re reading this, chances are good I was teaching someone just like you.

I knew that what I knew about DAX wasn’t special or magical, which was why I had dismissed the idea of a book.  Ken’s mail didn’t change that – I knew that DAX was pretty mundane, once you cozied up to it.

The things missing, for Ken and probably most people, were little things.  They were more about how to learn it than anything else.  That’s why my trainings are successful – I teach people how to learn like Excel people.  The way *I* learned it.

Fast Forward:  Ken Doesn’t Need Me Anymore <sniff sniff>

Since the book was written “for Ken,” I’m happy to say he read it and liked it.  I’m ashamed to say that I didn’t remember to thank him in the acknowledgements – how can I defend such a mistake?  (Nine months elapsed from inspiration to the time I wrote them, so there’s some excuse, but still.)

I am NOT making this up:  about three paragraphs ago, as I was writing this post, Ken tweeted the following:

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Ken was feeling GUILTY!  About not posting about PowerPivot Smile

No, we did not plan this.  So I tweeted back at him:

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and he replied:

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Fact is, Ken HAS been on the warpath, with three PowerPivot posts in the last week alone:

Creating a Spacer Column in a PowerPivot PivotTable 

Hide Calculated Items With Zero Totals In PowerPivot PivotTables

Using HASONEVALUE in a DAX IF statement 

Preach on, Brother Ken! Smile

“OK Rob, what’s the POINT of this post?”

Obscure Monty Python reference for the win.There’s actually THREE things I want to drive home.

1) If you’ve been playing with PowerPivot for awhile but feel like you are missing something, you’re probably missing the same things Ken was missing.  And those things are NOT hard to learn.

Those things aren’t even all that “large” either.  In fact, those things fit into 2-3 chapters of the book, or the first two hours of onsite training.  After that, it’s all just applying those fundamentals in new and exciting ways.

Of course, becoming good at DAX won’t turn you into Ken Puls, Master of Everything Excel.  Heck, it didn’t turn me into Ken either Smile.  But I firmly believe that if *I* can learn it, you can too, because I have now taught many people just like you.

2) Recent surveys and observations are telling me that many of you are in precisely the place Ken was at.  You’re reading the blog, you’re using PowerPivot, but there’s still something a little bit…  foreign.  Something’s eluding you – like Neo in the Matrix, you know it’s there, you’ve glimpsed it, but you don’t know what. 

You may think that it’s something wrong with you, that you’re the only one, and/or that you can’t become as good at PowerPivot as I am.

TOTALLY FALSE.  If you’re reading this, there’s a 100% chance you can quickly become about as good as me, and a 50/50 chance you will eventually be BETTER than me.  David Churchward, for instance, once asked me a really simple DAX question, and now there is ZERO doubt that he knows this stuff better than I do, by quite a bit.  He’s gone into “Italian” space now.  You could be him, but you can definitely be me.

NOTE:  In order to better triangulate how many of you are where Ken used to be, I’m going to run a survey today.  It’s one simple multiple choice question.  Watch the blog for the announcement.

3) OK, yeah, you really should consider getting my book.

If my hunches are correct, and lots of you are in the same place as Ken was, then I want you to make the transition.  It’s not hard, and the payoff is amazing.

In all seriousness, I didn’t write the book to make money off of it.  I wrote it to fill a need.  YOUR need.

(OK…  I kinda wrote it to make money, but NOT directly.  My day job is PowerPivot servers, aka PowerPivot hosting.  The more people are good at PowerPivot, the larger the market is for my company’s services.  So there’s the selfish motive for the book, if you must find one.  But don’t doubt my sincerity – I also very much want to help, whether it makes me money or not.)

Many tech books are priced at $50 or more, but mine is less than $20.  ($10 for the ebook).  That’s no accident – it’s priced to be affordable so that the knowledge gets out.  We charge thousands of dollars for onsite training, so the book is a pretty good value.  (The BIG advantage of training is that we focus on your data and problems, and build many of your needed workbooks during the training.)

Click here for reviews and ordering options

But watch for the mini-survey, it’s going up in a few minutes.

Rob Collie

One of the founding engineers behind Power Pivot during his 14-year career at Microsoft, and creator of the world’s first cloud Power Pivot service, Rob is one of the foremost authorities on self-service business intelligence and next-generation spreadsheet technology.

This Post Has 7 Comments
  1. I’m not really sure how to respond to this… I don’t exactly see myself as “Master of Everything Excel”, although I do appreciate the sentiment!

    Of course, now I’m feeling even guiltier for not having posted last night! 🙂

    1. You are a very bad man and you have failed the community. You can skate by, just this once, since you shared Bob’s post but we all expect more from you in the future 😉

    1. Well Zack, of the folks’ heads we could inflate, I think Ken is one who would use the added confidence in responsible ways 🙂

      Knowing this crowd is indeed a pleasure. You guys rock. 🙂

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